When I was 30, my mom, my sister and I took one of those whirlwind trips through Western Europe, the kind that’s much like the speed dating of travel. You see eight countries in two weeks, and you travel around on a bus with 4o strangers whose names you never learn but with whom you become surprisingly familiar. To keep our nameless bus-mates straight, and to entertain ourselves on the long rides through picturesque European countryside, my sister and I assigned them nicknames. I recall The Smiling South Africans, Gene Wilder and The Bad Hair Family and Aunt Edna and Her Drunk Husband. One night when we were giggling about something Aunt Edna and Her Drunk Husband did at dinner in Switzerland, my sister pondered, “I wonder what they call us?” We both flashed to our daily dress code of ripped jeans, hoodies and big sunglasses; our habit of rolling out of bed for the early morning wake-up call and tossing our frizzy hair in a bun; slinking onto the bus barefaced and baggy eyed and nodding off with our cheeks pressed against the window. “I wonder if they call us ‘The Girls Who Don’t Give a Shit?'” she asked.
I hadn’t thought about that particular memory in a long time, but yesterday, when I got the up-and-down stare from a mom at the park, who then turned to her husband and said something about me in Italian, I asked myself, “I wonder if I’m perceived as ‘The Mom Who Doesn’t Give a Shit?” I don’t think anyone would dispute that I love my daughter immensely, that I’m a good mother and that I take good care of her…no, I’m not talking about that. But when it comes to the small details of mommy-ing, sometimes I feel like I missed a memo, as some of the unwritten “rules” elude me. Sometimes I feel judged, sometimes I perceive judgment that isn’t there, often I judge myself. “Should I care more about that?” I ask myself. No. Life is short and I truly do not care about that, I typically say. And if that makes me the mom who doesn’t give a shit, so be it. Below are the top 7 mom-related things I don’t give a shit about.
1. Bringing snacks to a one-hour or less activity. I admire mommies who are so together they carry several BPA-free containers of nutritious snacks to every activity their child is involved in, be it a 20-minute car ride or a 30-minute play date. I’m not that mommy. My kid just had breakfast. She’ll have lunch or a snack when we get home. I have a water bottle in my purse. She’ll be okay. Playgroup mommy, you don’t have to hand her a fruit pouch with a look of pity in your eyes; she’s clearly not starving. And if you feel weird because my daughter is eyeballing your kid’s fishy crackers, I’m sorry. Kids want what other kids have. Even if I did bring my own fishy crackers, my kid would still want your kid’s. You don’t have to give her any. She’ll be okay.
2. Socializing at the park. No thank you. This is the introvert in me talking. I’m happy to schedule a play date with an existing friend, but I’m not going to the park to make mommy friends. The park is where my child makes friends and where I spend time with my child. I’m not unpleasant; I will exchange pleasantries. But do I want to exchange phone numbers and go to your yoga class? Just, no thank you.
3. I’m okay with being a human napkin. My daughter fears the hand dryer in public restrooms. If that’s the only option, she freaks out about what to do about her wet hands. “Just wipe them on my jeans!” Phew, crisis averted. Similarly, I can never seem to find my travel pack of tissues or the stack of Starbucks napkins I’ve been collecting for 10 years every time snot starts running down my child’s face and she screams, “I need a tissue!” This almost always happens when we’re in the car in rush hour. “Here, just use my sleeve!” I say, testing my arm’s flexibility as I try to reach her in the car seat. All is better now, but I have wet pants and snot on my shirt. Eh.
4. No shoes. No pants. No problem. My kid hates shoes, and I can’t really fault her because her parents do too. If we’re in the house, in other people’s houses, in our yard, at the park or otherwise outdoors and on safe terrain, we’re usually barefoot. I take a lot of heat for this in my extended family, which is odd because my whole childhood was spent barefoot. Apparently, my relatives have renewed their devotion to shoes. My brother even requires us to wear shoes in his house. Yep. Requires. The kid does keep her pants on outside of the house, but in the house — she has a strict no pants policy. This year I plan to freak my brother out and bring our child pants-less to his home on Christmas Eve.
5. Messes can be cleaned up, not always in a timely manner. My house is usually messy. If it is important that you visit a clean house, I’ll need at least 3-day’s notice. We live in our house with a 4-year-old and two dogs. When you sit down on our couch, you will emerge with dog fur on your pants and a Doc McStuffins sticker stuck to your butt. There is Play Doh stuck in the crevices of my dining room table that I have been trying to get out for two years. Sometimes our daughter walks around with a milk mustache for an hour before I clean it off. I know it’s there. She knows it’s there. But I’m doing something and she’s doing something, and a little milk on the lip never hurt anyone. I briefly belonged to a mommy group and on the first play date we attended, the kids could finger paint on sheets of paper that were placed on top of flattened cardboard boxes on top of grass. My daughter asked, “Mommy, can I paint on the box?” “Sure,” I said. Clearly, the boxes were there to catch the paint mess anyway. So she painted a sun and flowers on the box. Another child followed suit and his mom yelled at him. “You only paint on paper! Painting on boxes makes a mess!” she yelled. Had it not been my first day in the group I might have said what I was thinking, “What the hell is your problem?” Childhood is for messes.
6. My child’s birthday parties are not Pinterest worthy. At my daughter’s third birthday party I hand drew a banner, made centerpieces and had a dessert table. Nevertheless, she was pissed that day because no one would play soccer with her. This year, my husband and I had a long talk about our birthday philosophy and reminisced about the simplicity of our own childhood birthday parties. We decided that we were going to scale things back and keep things simple for birthdays, hopefully for good. This year, we had pizza and cake and went swimming. No decorations, no swag, not a single balloon. She woke up the day after and said, “That was the best birthday party ever!”
7. Taking a side in the mommy wars. This is actually something I do very much care about in the sense that I really want it to stop. Working moms, stay at home moms and work from home moms? I’ve been on all sides and they’re all really tough and really thankless. And on all sides you work your ass off and you never feel like you’re doing a good enough job at anything. Breast feeders and bottle feeders? Each mom makes a choice that is right for her family at the time. Please leave the other side alone and feel confident in your choice without the need to preach it all over the place. Women gaining too much weight or too little weight during pregnancy? Body shaming is so damaging, but body shaming when women are pregnant and at their most vulnerable is unforgivable. A woman’s pregnancy weight is between her and her doctor. Women, and mothers in particular, have so much talent, strength and wisdom. How much more powerful would we be as a collective if we stopped tearing each other down and instead chose to support each other and lift each other up? Or at the very least, could we just live and let live?
But, that’s just my two cents. And I’m the mom who doesn’t give a shit.